What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“Will now undertake to make Kinds of Wigs.”
Convenience! That was the hallmark of Benjamin Gladding’s advertisement in the May 21, 1768, edition of the Providence Gazette. The peruke (wig) maker and hairdresser acknowledged that some of his potential clients had not previously had access to all the goods and services they desired in the local marketplace. In particular, he noted that some “Gentlemen … have heretofore been at the Trouble of sending to Boston for their Wigs.” That, Gladding proclaimed, was no longer necessary because “he has lately engaged a Journeyman” to assist in his shop. Together, they could meet the needs of prospective clients in Providence. Gentlemen no longer needed to resort to the inconvenience of having wigs shipped from Boston.
In case prospective clients were as concerned about quality as convenience, Gladding offered additional commentary about the skills and expertise of his new journeyman, describing him as “a compleat Workman.” Together, they labored “to make all Kinds of Wigs, in the neatest and best Manner, and in the most genteel Taste.” In making this assertion, Gladding underscored that he offered potential customers more than just convenience. He implicitly compared the wigs produced in his shop to those that came from Boston, stressing that they were not inferior in any way. They possessed the same quality, having been made “in the neatest and best Manner,” and they were just as fashionable, following “the most genteel Taste” currently in style in the colonies and the British Atlantic world. Gladding further emphasized his familiarity with the latest trends when he promoted his services as a hairdresser. Since he set hair according to “the newest Fashions,” his clients did not need to worry that friends and acquaintances would critique them as ignorant or outdated, at least not as far as their tonsorial choices were concerned.
Gladding concluded his advertisement by pledging that “his constant Endeavour will be to render every Satisfaction.” By then he had demonstrated what this promise meant: prospective clients could depend on attention to convenience, quality, and fashion when they patronized his shop.